The News Courier in Athens, Alabama


January 9, 2013

Commentary: We should use the longer days for good

— The head of my bed sits against a large northern exposure window. I regret to say how many times I’ve awakened to the sound of chirping birds, rolled over, squinted up through the treetops at a brilliant blue sky and groaned aloud because I wasn’t willing to begin a new day.

Strange how a case of flu, a horrendous shooting and winter solstice can change a person’s point of view.

Like numerous others in our community I was hit by the flu bug last week, although having had a flu shot. I got a lot more down time than I could have wanted.

Add to that the eviscerating horror of watching the events surrounding the Sandy Hook slaughter of 26 innocent people unfold throughout the week and one starts thinking the Mayans had the right idea. Can this world continue to go on in the midst of such evil?

In recent weeks we in the newsroom had been wisecracking about the end of the world as foretold by the cessation of time on the Mayan calendar.

On the Friday of the Connecticut shootings I had already read online of a school shooting in which a teacher had been shot in the foot, and my cowriters commented that a child must have somehow smuggled a gun into school.

Within minutes, our managing editor, Adam Smith, looked up from his computer screen and said, “Oh, there are almost 20 children dead and some of their teachers.” And after a few seconds, “Well, I guess the end of the world has begun.”

He rolled back from his computer screen, went outside, lit a cigarette and paced the parking lot. The end of the world came for 26 souls.

A week later, December 21, the Mayan doomsday came and went and the world is still here, except for the worlds of those folks around the globe whose lives ended by means both natural and unnatural. And their numbers have been replenished as the fruitfulness of the Earth’s peoples more than made up for those lost.

The Mayan calendar ended with winter solstice. But solstice marks the time in the world’s annual trip around the sun when days begin to imperceptibly grow longer. Each day there is more light.

The end of a year is symbolized by Father Time carrying the sickle of death. He is replaced by the symbol of the New Year, a newborn baby. That infant, as the infant whose birth we celebrated yesterday, symbolizes the promise of a new beginning, a rebirth for all mankind.

For the last week and a half since the Sandy Hook massacre we’ve watched as one so-called expert after another expounds on his or her theory of why this occurred. But I believe the real truth lies in not just one reason.

From the perspective of a person, who, according to actuarial tables, has already lived at least three-quarters of her life, the children and teachers of Sandy Hook were victims of a deadly American cocktail.

It is not each solely the lack of resources for the mentally ill, the easy availability of powerful firearms, breakup of the traditional family, breakdown of spiritual values, proliferation of violent video games targeted at the young, disdain for authority or drug and/or alcohol abuse. It is a lethal mixture of all of those with the instability and explosive potential of liquid nitroglycerin.

Let us use these longer daylight hours heralded by the bright blue sky of a coming day not to roll over and go back to sleep, shutting out the social ills that blight us. Where there is light there is life and time to turn around this path of pain and destruction on which the world seems so hell bent.

— Retired reporter Karen Middleton is an occasional contributor and editor of Boom magazine.

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